Yesterday was the grand kickoff for the centennial of the University of the Philippines.  I missed it for two reasons:  Number one, I was sick and number two, I didn’t know about it ahead of time!  I’m not personally in touch with the goings-on in the UP community, keeping myself updated only through the blogs and occasionally through fellow UP alumni that I meet along the way.

I first got wind of the centennial when the Gawad Likhaan writing contest was announced.  I always knew at the back of my mind that 2008 was the centennial year, but never really thought of actively participating, since I didn’t even come from UP Diliman, which is the main campus now.  I also wasn’t very active in campus activities when I was at UP Manila.  We had our own little world back then.    But I was suddenly jealous when I saw the kickoff in the news last night.  I wish I had been there.  If I had known about it in advance and if I hadn’t been sick, I probably would’ve dragged or tagged along with some fellow UP alumni friends.

I’m glad that one of my former officemates uploaded an MP3 of UP Naming Mahal (the school song) in her Multiply account.  I can’t even remember the last time I personally heard this song, much less sing it!  It think the first and only time was during freshmen orientation.  Ah…I still remember that day at the Philamlife Auditorium in Manila.  Then-UP President Emil Javier gave a speech to welcome us and let us know what to expect and what is expected of us.

Life in UP was a rollercoaster ride, but I enjoyed it most of the time.  True, I could ask for more such as better facilities, but I think that kind of lack only made better, or at least more resourceful, students out of us.  I liked the independence, especially after 13 years of Catholic girls’ school.

UP has always been the bastion of freedom, honor and excellence.  Now, the honor part has become debatable looking at how some of the most prominent UP alumni have turned out, but freedom and excellence will always be at the core of UP.  I remember one story about ‘honor and excellence’, which are the words written on the cover of the UP blue book (the exam booklet).  I think it was my friend Tere who told this story:  There was an exam and one student was caught cheating.  Instead of telling the student off with a sermon and threats, the professor simply marched up to him/her, tore the blue book, threw the pieces back on the table, and said three simple words to the student – “Honor and Excellence”.  The student definitely felt very guilty…and I’m guessing he/she probably never attempted to cheat again.  Or at least I hope so.  I also remember how even the simplest littering would get you raised eyebrows and hard stares, along with the words, “Wala kang civic consciousness!

How I wish such high ground still exists even after students leave UP.  I wish all UP students and alumni will resoundingly disprove one Justice Secretary’s statement that UP is a breeding ground of infidels and is just a place where men run naked.

As a final note, I’d like to correct a common misinformation that the UP Oblation is a symbol of freedom.  Yes, it can be interpreted as such, but it is truly about patriotism and sacrifice for the nation and humanity in general.  It would do well for members of the UP community to remember that.  Yes, myself included.  More information about the Oblation here.